TOWN OF AVON
Avon to let fracking moratorium expire
The controversial one-year moratorium on hydrofracking in the Town of Avon — adopted by a split vote of the town board and then subjected to litigation by the gas drilling industry — will not be renewed. The moratorium will no longer be in effect as of its adoption anniversary date on June 28.
An active vote by the town board would be needed to renew the moratorium for an extended period, but no action is necessary to let the legislation expire, Avon Town Supervisor David LeFeber confirmed in a Monday interview.
After a series of meetings with a volunteer committee researching the issues, the consensus of the board is that the purpose of the moratorium has been achieved, LeFeber reported.
LeFeber noted that the Town of Livonia choose not to renew its moratorium after determining its existing zoning offers adequate protections and a virtual ban against horizontal hydraulic fracturing. LeFeber anticipates a review of Avon zoning to determine if additional restriction would or would not be desirable.
The town board will commence a discussion of zoning and land use at its Thursday’s meeting.
“We’re going to talk about this with our attorney,” LeFeber said. Avon Town Attorney Jim Campbell is also attorney for the towns of Livonia, York and Springwater, and Campbell’s partner, Steve Kruk, is attorney for Lima. Campbell counseled all four of the town boards while they wrestled with the legal subtleties of regulation and moratorium.
LeFeber believes the eight-member volunteer committee made a conscientious, thorough and seemingly objective report to the board. Admittedly, however, the committee was comprised entirely of persons with anti-fracking sentiments.
The committee was chaired by Mike Froome and later by Chuck Morgan. Other members were Jim Root, Malachy Coyne, Wendy Sisson, Judy Salzoi, Claire Mulligan, Debbie Morrow and Ann Jenson.
After meeting twice monthly to compile its research in report form, the committee then met with the town board on five occasions between January and June. Each session with the town board addressed potential impacts on land use, natural resources, and the socio-economic character of the community. There was also an examination of the gas extraction process itself.
“They talked about the economic benefits of using gas and benefits to the landowners. They gave both sides of the story,” LeFeber said. “The report also did a good job of pointing out the resources — the land and water — we have here in the Genesee Valley and how, if they are protected, they can benefit us for a long time.”
Besides informing the board about hydrofracking, the report may be useful in re-writing the town’s comprehensive master plan, a task which will be undertaken during the latter half of this year.
“The moratorium was a time for information to be gathered by the board,” LeFeber said. “The information has now been gathered, so we’re going to review it and see what conclusions we can draw. With it, we are in a better place to check and see if our current zoning is adequate for protecting ourselves.”
LeFeber is unsure how or if the absence of the moratorium will affect Lenape Resources’ lawsuit against the town. Last year, with the advent of the moratorium, the company shut down its gas wells in Avon, claiming it was abiding by the moratorium, even though provisions had been included which exempted existing gas drilling operations. A lawsuit claiming damages was subsequently filed by Lenape against the Town of Avon and state Department of Environmental Conservation. When the suit was dismissed in State Supreme Court, Lenape resumed well operations in Avon, but also filed notice to appeal the Supreme Court decision in Appellate Court.
In opting to not renew their moratoriums, Avon and Livonia are not in the majority. Four other towns have, or are in the process of, renewing for another year. The Conesus moratorium was renewed in a split 3-to-2 town board vote, while renewals in Lima, Springwater and Sparta have gone forward without contention.
The Town of Springwater has scheduled a public hearing for 7:15 p.m. July 1 at the Town Hall, 8022 South Main St., to review its moratorium on high volume hydraulic fracking.